Customer service in 2018 will build on the foundations of the past while expanding into the future. Today’s company needs to be agile – quick to spot new opportunities and poised to take advantage of them. Company culture should ensure that everyone is on board when it comes to prioritizing the customer experience, which is one of the main drivers of financial growth.
Personalization continues to be the watchword when it comes to delivering the best customer experience in the years to come.
Fortunately, new technology holds the promise of making it easier than ever to come up with crowd-pleasing ideas. Brands want to form relationships that evoke emotional loyalty from customers through customized interactions that maintain the personal touch, regardless of the channel used.
Digital is the way to go for customer service in 2018. Dimension Data, in their Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report, predicts that use of digital channels will increase tremendously:
- Web chat will grow from 44.3% to 81.1%
- Mobile app use will increase from 41.6% to 75.45%
- Social media will expand from 51.4% to 76.1%
For most brands, a bare-bones telephone contact center is hopelessly old-fashioned. It simply won’t offer the features customers have come to expect.
1. Omnichannel makes it easy for the customer
Today’s customer has a low tolerance for frustration. They’d rather try their luck with another company than repeat themselves to your customer service rep. After all, your competition is just a click away. Brands have become accustomed to the idea that they must provide multichannel access, but omnichannel demands more.
Omnichannel service is different from multi-channel. Multi-channel means the customer can contact you through different channels: phone, live chat, social media, email, and so on. Omnichannel means that all channels are integrated.
At its best, a customer can ask to talk to their favorite representative regardless of how the contact is made. They can transition seamlessly from one channel to another. For instance, a customer might start a conversation on live chat, but have difficulty understanding the agent’s instructions. With the click of an icon they can move to a voice – or even video – call.
At the minimum, omnichannel means that the customer’s whole history is available to the agent handling the current issue. Having an integrated dashboard that keeps your agents updated on the customer’s journey in real time makes the customer feel special. It reduces the effort they have to make to solve their issue. It also helps your customer service team deliver top-notch service.
2. Self-service options empower the customer
We’re all used to looking to Google to solve our problems. For younger customers especially, self-service is the first line of defense. Millennials would rather look up your FAQ and page through your knowledge base that call your customer service line.
A complete and easily searchable database allows them to do their own research and find solutions to the more simple and common issues they may have. If you set up a forum on your website your customers can ask each other questions and share information.
This is beneficial in several ways. Customers feel a sense of satisfaction from solving their own problems and become more engaged with your company. You might even see a community grow around your brand.
The benefits of video
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. A visual demonstration can be easier to understand than even the most well-written instructions. Of course, it’s best to have both. Even if you don’t need to make any complex explanations, a video FAQ can help personalize your company and help build an emotional rapport with your customers.
Video calls are gaining acceptance as a customer service channel as well. Online calling applications such as Skype have become mainstream, and internet speeds in many countries make it a viable option. When the customer and agent can see each other it humanizes the interaction and helps build empathy, making for better customer service.
3. Taking chat to social media
Social media lets you engage with customers and become part of their lives. The key is to do it in a natural, low-pressure way that shows you care about them, not just your bottom line. In 2016, 34.5% of customers said that social media was the first place they turned to contact a brand when they had a problem. This number has only increased with time. Unfortunately, 89% of customer messages are ignored.
Customers went from expecting a response within a few hours to expecting an immediate answer on social media. They are starting to expect to be able to carry a conversation on Facebook with the brand just as if they were chatting on the brand’s website. It’s all one in the same.
It’s a good thing that advances in artificial intelligence (AI) can help provide quick response time while keeping costs down. But in the long run, you will need to have staff that is capable of engaging with your customers much faster than before.
4. The rise of mobile customer support
When a customer contacts you via social media or live chat there’s a good chance they’ll be on their mobile phone or tablet when they do it. Text or SMS isn’t a very popular service channel at the moment, but the average American nowadays spends almost 3 hours a day on their phone.
The bulk of the time is spent on mobile apps, mostly listening to music, watching videos, using social media, gaming, and messaging with apps such as WhatsApp and Google Hangouts. The use of mobile channels is expected to grow in 2018 as market penetration increases. Brands that take advantage of this will be able to meet customers where they are, giving them an edge over the competition.
The telephone, live chat, and email will continue to provide the backbone of your customer service in 2018. However, forward-thinking brands will take advantage of opportunities to expand their reach and redefine the customer service experience.